Walid Sadok, Professor
Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics
Sponsor: Forever Green Initiative, Clean Water Fund
Award Amount: $139,000
Winter barley is a promising winter annual to help provide continuous cover in Minnesota cropping systems. It has the potential to provide numerous environmental and socioeconomic services in addition to a mature value chain including barley farmers, malting companies, a vibrant brewing industry, and consumers interested in locally produced end products. For such potential to be fully realized, more winter-hardy barley cultivars are needed since most of the available varieties fail to reliably survive the harsh Minnesota winters.
The University of Minnesota winter barley breeding program has produced advanced lines with improved winter hardiness. However, it is currently limited by a large year-to-year variation in winter conditions and a lack of winter hardiness component traits other than survival. Such traits are needed to resolve the complex genetic basis of winter hardiness and fast-track the breeding pipeline. In this proposal, our goal is to relieve those bottlenecks and maximize the potential of the breeding program. We will leverage highly diverse genetic resources, a semi-controlled field-based high throughput screening approach and a unique functional phenotyping platform to reliably screen thousands of lines each winter. This will enable us to identify novel winter hardiness genes that can be integrated into the breeding pipeline over the course of this project. To this end, we have assembled a multi-disciplinary team combining expertise in functional phenotyping, stress physiology, agronomy, barley breeding and genetics, barley genomics and population genetics. Further, we expect this approach to be a successful blueprint for winter hardiness of other Forever Green Initiative crops.